West Bromwich Albion struck first at Villa Park, but the home side completed an exhilarating second-half comeback in just under five minutes.
First-Half and Lineups:
Manager Dean Smith called upon his expected starting XI that included Glenn Whelan in the base of midfield and Albert Adomah on the wing. Lovre Kalinic, Kortney Hause, Mile Jedinak, Conor Hourihane, Andre Green, Jonathan Kodjia and Keinan Davis composed the substitutes’ bench.
Villa started brightly earning an early corner kick that almost amounted to a goal. Jack Grealish played the ball to McGinn near the left corner flag when he took a few steps and delivered a ball to Glenn Whelan five yards out. The header went over the bar, but it was a good first impression.
Ultimately, that impression faded quickly as Villa controlled possession – well over 65% of it – but couldn’t break down Albion’s 3-5-2 shape. Ahmed Hegazi, in particular, cleared every ball out of his path. Disaster struck in the 16th-minute when a back pass to Whelan was badly misplayed, allowing striker Dwight Gayle through on goal. He forced home a powerful shot that caught Jed Steer flat-footed (to Steer’s credit he made a magnificent save five minutes earlier).
Smith made no changes to the Villa side at half-time, but Albion were forced into making a switch as centre-back Craig Dawson was knocked out. On came Tyrone Mears.
More of the same early on: Villa pinned WBA back, but they would not break. That is, until a double switch occurred. Hourihane and Green replaced Whelan and Adomah and the match changed almost immediately. About seven minutes after coming on, Hourihane found himself on the receiving end of Jack’s foray into the box. Conor smashed home the equalizer with two-seam fastball-like movement away from Albion ‘keeper Sam Johnstone. 1-1.
Three minutes after Grealish, again, earned a penalty after a tidy lay-off pass from Green. Kieran Gibbs, the offender, was booked seconds earlier for the foul that led to the Villa attack. Tammy Abraham made Johnstone go the other way and the rest was history. Dwight Gayle was sent-off for the Baggies late on after going hard into Jed Steer. Therefore, he will miss the next leg, which is huge considering they are already without substitute attacker Hal Robson-Kanu. Anwar El Ghazi walked off under his own power, but the did receive a small knock as well with minutes to go.
Kodjia made a late cameo.